Rwandans from different walks of life will, next week, converge at the Kigali Convention Centre for the annual National Dialogue, commonly known as Umushyikirano.
This year’s Umushyikirano is the 15th edition and will bring together about 2,000 Rwandans to discuss issues that affect the country.
The meeting is chaired by the President and attended by central and local government officials, representatives of the Rwandan community abroad, the private sector and civil society, local government, media and the diplomatic community among others.
During the event, Rwandans get to directly engage their leaders about the country’s challenges, opportunities, and growth agenda. The two-day event is broadcast live on public radio and TV as well as streamed online with slots for call-in sessions.
With the 2017 edition taking place December 18-19, The New Times sought ideas from some Rwandans on what issues they would like discussed.
Elysee Tuyizere, a final year student at the University of Kigali pursuing a degree in Business and Information Technology (BBIT), said that one topic that needs to feature prominently is jobs and the youth.
Youth unemployment is still a challenge for many countries and while there is no magic bullet, Tuyizere says that if it comes up during the dialogue ideas can be exchanged.
“If I was at Umushyikirano, I would raise a point in line with the private sector, the government and the education system linking up so as to better determine what kind of knowledge and skills the youth should be taught in order to find work.”
“You will somehow find that the government can easily collaborate with the private sector or contribute to the education system. But there is still a gap between private sector and the education system.”
Alice Kirezi, a working mother, perhaps takes things a notch higher when she points out the need to put the youth at the centre of national transition. For this to work, she suggests, “we should first look at their successful transition to adulthood.”
“Unless we work on nurturing our young people right from childhood to adulthood we don’t have to expect them to be the center of transition,” Kirezi said.
“Without parents and teachers working together on this, academic excellence alone will not position them (youth) at the center of transition. To turn a young person into a responsible citizen has to start with the family.”
Among others, she noted that for the nation’s children to better contribute to the future of Rwanda, other beneficial educational aspirations that “our young generation doesn’t normally acquire in the classroom settings” must be considered.
Kirezi also emphasises “education outside the classroom.”
The role of the family and society in positioning the youth’s participation in national development is crucial, she said. “We’ve all become busy with careers and the fast-moving technologies that we forget about grooming kids to a successful adulthood,” she said.
Ian Mbanda, 18, a senior six graduate of New Vision High School who loves soccer, said one thing he thinks is particularly important is the education and training of the nation’s youth as well as nurturing the country’s vast talent.
Mbanda said: “For example, we have kids who love sports. They can be encouraged to get involved in sports. They can be put in academies that enable them to enhance their skills and talent so they can achieve their dreams in the long-term.”
“Talent detection at a young age is very important because, obviously, if you observe that your child has a special talent or skill in a certain sport or game, this child should be signed up in an academy and enabled to grow in that game and become better.”
The teenager’s view is that, in the future, when they become professionals they benefit themselves and the country.
Education and training or nurturing the country’s vast talent are very key issues to discuss during the next Umushyikirano, the teenager said.
“In Africa, I don’t think the idea of sports academies is really well recognised but in Europe and North America, this is a big deal. They have kids who are enrolled in sports academies at the age of five. And once they reach their teens they are able to progress. I think Africa has lagged behind in talent because there is a lack of involvement of youth and nurturing of talent.”
Patrice Shema, the Chairperson of the Rwandan Community Association, in London, UK, emphasised the importance of the creative industry. The creative industry, he said, aligns relevantly with the campaign to promote locally made products.
According to Shema, just as the tourism sector aligns itself with International Tourism Exhibitions, this could coincide with other international product markets, mainly beginning with fashion.
“There is a generation of young and capable Rwandan fashion designers in the diaspora who are willing to go all the way. The dream of Rwanda to be a regional fashion hub is now,” he said.
“A design centre would be the ideal thing to work as a conglomeration showroom emerging for budding artists to expose their local products and sell on a regular basis. The centre can be supported by local corporate companies and in-turn boost the young thriving talents, and the economy,” he said.
Jean-Léonard Sekanyange, the chairperson and spokesperson for Rwanda Civil Society Platform, said the dialogue should discuss three things; job creation among the youth, modernising agriculture, as well as construction sector.
“Umushyikirano should be an opportunity to discuss how job creation policy can be implemented successfully, there is need to attract investors so that they can help create more jobs for the youth as it will boost development,” he said.
“Thousands of people graduate every year but you find them jobless. Policies to create (jobs) may be there but the implementation is lacking. Policies and implementation are two different things. There is need to translate policies into actions and create jobs without waiting for jobs in public institutions,” he added.
According to official figures, 27.7 per cent of university graduates are unemployed.
“There is also need to modernise agriculture so that farmers are able to not only do farming to satisfy their families but also farm for the market. The discussions should also include issues of construction as we still see disorder in the sector where agricultural land is being used for construction and vice versa,” Senkanyange said.
Additional reporting by Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti.